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Herries, who there upon the stair ended him." The Earl of Gowrie followed these servants of the King; and then the Earl was " stricken dead with a stroke through the heart which the said Sir John Ramsey gave him." Sir Thomas Erskine and Sir John Ramsey confirm this account. The people of Perth believed that the Earl of Gowrie, their Provost, was unjustly slain; and their cry was, "Bloody butchers, traitors, murderers, ye shall all die! give us forth our Provost! Woe worth ye greencoats, woe worth this day for ever! Traitors and thieves that have slain the Earl of Gowrie !" The slaying of the two brothers gave rise to the belief that "the King was a doer, and not a sufferer."* It was this belief that moved the people of Perth to utter "most irreverent and undutiful speeches against his Majesty," even though the Earl was denounced as "a studier of magic, and a conjurer of devils.” Macbeth has furnished the excuse for such a sudden slaying of the brothers :
The people of Perth, however, became reconciled to James. On the 15th of April, 1601, "The King's Majesty came to Perth, and was made burgess at the
* Galloway's Discourse before the King.
Market Cross. There was eight puncheons of wine set there, and all drunken out. He received the banquet at the town, and subscribed the guild-book with his own hand, Jacobus Rex, parcere subjectis, et debellare superbos.'”
In a paper read to the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, by John Anderson, Esq., On the Site of Macbeth's Castle at Inverness,'* the author says, "The extreme accuracy with which Shakspere has followed the minutiae of Macbeth's career has given rise to the opinion that he himself visited those scenes which are immortalized by his pen." It is our duty to examine this opinion somewhat particularly, whatever be the conclusions to which the examination may conduct us.
The story of Macbeth was presented to Shakspere in a sufficiently complete form by the chronicler from whom he derived so many other materials, Holinshed. In testing, therefore, "the extreme accuracy with which Shakspere has followed the minutiae of Macbeth's career"-by which we understand the writer to mean the accuracy of the poet in details of locality—we must inquire how far he agrees with, or differs from, and how far he expands, or curtails, the local statements or allusions of his chief authority. In the tragedy, Macbeth and Banquo, returning from their victory, are proceeding to Forres: 'How far is 't called to Forres?" In the chronicler we find, "It fortuned as Macbeth and Banquo journeyed towards Forres, where the king then lay." So far there is agreement as to the scene. The historian thus proceeds: "They went sporting by the way together without other company, passing thorough the woods and fields, when suddenly, in the middest of a laund, there met them three women in strange and wild apparel." This description presents to us the idea of a pleasant and fertile place. The very spot where the supernatural soliciting occurs is a laund, or meadow amongst trees. The poet chose his scene with greater art. The witches meet "upon the heath;" they stop the way of Macbeth and Banquo upon the "blasted heath." But the poet was also more accurate than the historian in his traditionary topography. The country around Forres is wild moorland. Boswell, passing from Elgin to Forres in company with Johnson, says, "In the afternoon we drove over the very heath where Macbeth met the witches, according to tradition. Dr. Johnson again solemnly repeated, How far is 't called to Forres?' &c." But, opposed to this, the more general tradition holds that the blasted heath" was on the east of Forres, between that town and Nairn. "A more dreary piece of moorland is not to be found in all Scotland. . . There is something startling to a stranger in seeing the solitary figure of the peat-digger or rush-gatherer moving amidst the waste in the sunshine of a calm autumn day; but the desolation of the scene in stormy weather, or when the twilight fogs are trailing over the pathless heath, or settling down upon the pools, must be indescribable." We thus see that, whether Macbeth met the weird sisters to the east or west of Forres, there was in each place that desolation which was best fitted for such an event, and not
'Transactions,' vol. iii., 28th January, 1828.
A laund is described by Camden as "a plain amongst trees."
Local Illustrations of Macbeth, Act I.
the woods and fields and launds of the chronicler. From Forres, where Macbeth. proffers his service and his loyalty to his king, was a day's ride to his own castle: "From hence to Inverness." Boece makes Inverness the scene of Duncan's murder. Holinshed merely says, "He slew the king at Enverns, or (as some say) at Botgosvane." The chroniclers would have furnished Shakspere no notion of the particular character of the castle at Inverness. Without some local knowledge the poet might have placed it upon a frowning rock, lonely, inaccessible, surrounded with a gloom and grandeur fitted for deeds of murder and usurpation. He has chosen altogether a different scene :—
Such a description, contrasting as it does with the deeds of terror that are to be acted in that pleasant seat, is unquestionably an effort of the highest art. But here again the art appears founded upon a reality. Mr. Anderson, in the paper which we have already quoted, has shown from various records that there was an old castle at Inverness. It was not the castle whose ruins Johnson visited and of which Boswell says, "It perfectly corresponds with Shakspeare's description;" but a castle on an adjacent eminence called the Crown-so called from having been a royal seat. Traditionary lore, Mr. Anderson says, embodies this opinion, connecting the place with the history of Macbeth. "Immediately opposite to the Crown, on a similar eminence, and separated from it by a small valley, is a farm belonging to a gentleman of the name of Welsh. That part of the ascent to this farm next Viewfield, from the Great Highland Road, is called 'Banquo's Brae.' The whole of the vicinity is rich in wild imagery. From the mouth of the valley of Diriebught to King's Mills, thence by the road to Viewfield, and down the gorge of Aultmuniack to the mail-road along the seashore, we compass a district celebrated in the annals of diablerie." The writer then goes on to mention other circumstances corroborating his opinion as to the site of Macbeth's castle: "Traces of what has been an approach to a place of consequence are still discernible. This approach enters the lands of Diriebught. from the present mail-road from Fort George; and, running through the valley, gradually ascends the bank of the Crown Hill; and, the level attained, strikes again towards the eastern point, where it terminates. Here the pleasant seat' is rumoured to have stood, facing the sea; and singularly correct with respect to the relative points of the compass will be found the poet's disposal of the portal at the south entry.
The investiture of Macbeth at Scone, and the burial of Duncan at Colmeskill, are facts derived by the poet from the chronicler. Hence also Shakspere derived
the legend, of which he made so glorious a use, that "a certain witch whom he had in great trust had told Macbeth that he should never be slain with man born of any woman, nor vanquished till the wood of Birnane came to the castle of Dunsinane." From Holinshed, also, he acquired a general notion of the situation of this castle: "He builded a strong castle on the top of an high hill called Dunsinane, situate in Gowrie, ten miles from Perth, on such a proud height that standing there aloft a man might behold well near all the countries of Angus, Fife, Stirmond, and Erndale, as it were lying underneath him." The propinquity of Birnam Wood to Dunsinane is indicated only in the chronicler by the circumstance that Malcolm rested there the night before the battle, and on the morrow marched to Dunsinane, every man "bearing a bough of some tree or other of that wood in his hand." The commanding position of Dunsinane, as described by the chronicler, is strictly adhered to by the poet :
"As I did stand my watch upon the hill
I looked toward Birnam, and anon, methought
But the poet has a particularity which the historian has not :
"Within this three mile may you see it coming;
I say, a moving grove."
This minuteness sounds like individual local knowledge. The Dunsinane Hills form a long range extending in a north-easterly direction from Perth to Glamis. The castle of the "thane of Glamis" has been made a traditionary scene of the murder of Duncan. Birnam Hill is to the north-west of Perth; and between the two elevations there is a distance of some twelve miles, formed by the valley
of the Tay. But Birnam Hill and Birnam Wood might have been essentially different spots two centuries and a half ago. The plain is now under tillage; but even in the time of Shakspere it might have been for the most part woodland, extending from Birnam Hill within four or five miles of Dunsinane; distinguished from Birnam Hill as Birnam Wood. At the distance of three miles it was "a moving grove." It was still nigher to Dunsinane when Malcolm exclaimed,
"Now, near enough, your leafy screens throw down."
These passages in the play might have been written without any local knowledge, but they certainly do not exhibit any local ignorance. It has been said, "The probability of Shakspeare's ever having been in Scotland is very remote. It should seem, by his uniformly accenting the name of this spot Dunsinane, that he could not possibly have taken it from the mouths of the country-people, who as uniformly accent it Dunsínnan."* This is not quite accurate, as Dr. Drake has pointed out. Shakspere has this passage:
"Macbeth shall never vanquish'd be, until
Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill
Shall come against him."